Post by Abbey Hayes
To put it simply, if you are watching pornography you are aiding, facilitating, and furthering the sexual exploitation and trafficking of the vulnerable and marginalized.
Moreover, if you are watching pornography on a regular basis, you are likely watching a child. It is pretty easy to make a fourteen-year-old look like an eighteen-year-old. Watching child pornography is a felony, and you can face anywhere in between 10 years to a lifetime in prison AND a $250,000 fine.
Watching and using pornography is a sin that affects more than just your personal life, this is a sin that has a detrimental impact on society. The United Nations conservatively estimates that there are 40 million slaves in the world today. There is no coincidence that the rise of slavery occurred the same time as rise of the internet.
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Now, how did we get here?
In 1996, Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Although much of CDA is gone, section 230 remains. CDA 230 provides immunity to interactive computer service providers (ICS). Immunity means that you cannot be sued. For twenty-five years, ICS providers (Google, Facebook, PornHub, etc.) have been immune from suit because Congress decided a quarter of a century ago—a time when no person could possibly imagine social media existing, let alone a laptop—that big tech companies would not be liable for a third party’s action on its platform.
This might seem like a practical law. You shouldn’t be able to hold someone liable for something they didn’t do, right? Well, it depends on what you mean by what they “didn’t do.”
Should an ICS provider be liable when it is not vetting its users who are pedophiles that are using the platform to groom children? What about when an ICS knows that there are explicit images of a seven-year-old on its website? Or when the ICS depicts the rape of a women in which its users are forcing her eyes to open so it can seem like she is somewhat conscious? What if it is changing the caption of pornographic videos to say words like “middle school” and “child” to get more views?
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These are just a few examples of current allegations against ICS providers. Therefore, ICS providers should be held liable, and victims should have the right to take an ICS provider to court. CDA 230 immunity has left victims without recourse for over twenty years.
Fortunately, in 2018, Congress passed FOSTA SESTA. This act abrogates immunity when an ICS provider engages in human trafficking. For the first time ever, major ICS providers such as Facebook, Twitter, PornHub, and MindGeek are beyond the motion to dismiss stage and in discovery.
I had the privilege to intern with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) who is in current litigation with Twitter and PornHub. NCOSE is making major waves amidst facing a twenty-five-year mountain of CDA 230 bad precedent.
I believe the recent abrogation of immunity for ICS providers may lead to the end of the internet as we know it. Discovery will reveal a mountain of secrets that have been kept for the past twenty-five years.
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Although this legal battle is just beginning, it has begun! In a denial of certiorari last spring, Justice Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court is anticipating hearing a CDA 230 case in the near future.
Right now, we must focus on education and awareness on the harms of pornography and the recent developments with CDA 230 and FOSTA SESTA. Talk to your local representatives, talk to your kids, talk to your spouse. We are on the brink of something big and I hope you can join the fight.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Intern. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.